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Backyard DIY Makeover: Seeing the Big Picture in a Small Space

We’ve all heard it a million times from people who are looking for a house, and maybe we’ve even uttered these words to a realtor ourselves: “We want lots of property. At least an acre.” Now, I could understand the need for a large piece of land in certain circumstances. Maybe you are an avid gardener or farmer who enjoys having your hands in the dirt. Maybe you hate gardening, but have lots of money to spend on landscaping and plan on admiring your large, lush backyard from your veranda while sipping on Dom Perignon. Maybe you are Angelina and Brad and have forty-two wordly children that will be running around the yard. Or maybe you one day hope to host the Royal Wedding and you, being the gracious hostess that you are, just want to make sure you have enough space to accommodate everyone. If any of the above applies, then by all means, go ahead and splurge on that extra acre or two. But if you find your dream home in your dream neighborhood and don’t plan on starting a farm commune, then don’t let a more modest piece of property be the deal-breaker for you. Beautiful, awesome designs can be done in small spaces, and more often than not, the smaller spaces tend to be the most kick-ass ones anyway. Just ask Michael Nester. Michael, our Broker/Realtor with Dickens-Mitchener & Associates, sees this all the time. “People always want more acreage than they can afford!” Of course, financially, this is usually the case. But we should also think about the physical spending we will need to put into a large outdoor space, as well as the mental cost – the thinking, planning, weeding, etc. Aren’t we already pretty much spent?

Don’t get me wrong – good friends of ours have a home that sits on 3 acres of property because they like a lot of land, and the husband mows it all himself. Why, asked my husband, would he ever want to do that? His answer: “Because it’s MY time. My three hours of peace and quiet, where I grab a few beers and just sit there on my mower, and I don’t have to listen to anyone. Plus, it’s the only time I can legally drink and drive.” I don’t know if that’s actually legal. But fair enough.

Our house does not sit on acres of land. We have a smaller-size backyard that we share with about 14,000 rabbits (by the time I finish writing this post there will probably be 14,235.) I started a small vegetable garden last year, and enjoyed it so much that I planted more this year. But the traditional wooden raised box bed pushed off to the side of the yard wasn’t too inspiring, and I wanted to create a garden area that was as appealing as the food that came out of it. I also realized that I didn’t have to keep the garden confined to the far end of the yard. If it’s something I love, and knew I’d be spending lots of time in, why not bring it out into yard a bit more? Once we thought of cutting into the yard to put something useable, such as this garden, the idea clicked for us. Besides, this meant less grass to maintain, and my husband hates grass – you’re talking about someone who jokes about filling the backyard with green cement, just so he doesn’t have to think about grass anymore (and anyone who knows him knows that he has actually seriously considered this!) So, it was time to take on our DIY project. There’s nothing better than a good DIY project – that is as long as you’ve got the right equipment for the job. If not, then you might want to have a look at somewhere like, where you can find whatever tools or equipment you may need for the project that you need doing.

We went from this….

To this!

Here’s a view of the garden at night:

We absolutely love this garden! We did this in a full day’s work, and the rocks were courtesy of Peaceful Ponds. A DIY post will be coming shortly…in the meantime, what kind of space are you working with at your place, and how have you made it your own?

I talked about the smaller-space concept in another post in the form of turning a standard-size closet into an office space, and the same thing applies for outdoor living. When you have limits to work within, you force yourself to utilize every little bit of space. This, in turn, leads to resourcefulness and lots of creativity (yes, even for you!) After all, the main goal in having property is being able to enjoy it, right? And in order to enjoy it you have to be able to feel good about it and get a sense of accomplishment from it. If you work full time and don’t plan on spending all your free time on maintenance for your large yard, you will quickly become overwhelmed, and pretty soon you’ll be keeping your blinds closed so that you don’t have to accidentally catch the unsightly view of your overgrown lawn and neglected shrubs. You’ll wind up becoming disheartened instead of inspired. So, no matter what size your property is, think of how you like to spend your time outdoors and get to work on a project that best suits you. There are lots of great DIY ideas you can pull off in minimal time that are unbelievably inexpensive. For example, if you like hanging out by the fire, build a small firepit. Always wanted a vegetable garden? Rather than a boring wooden box garden, make a few free-form raised beds instead. The goal is to figure out what you like to do and literally bring it to your own backyard.

And PS – If you are perfectly happy reading this while drinking your fancy champagne from your large veranda and admiring your acres of well-manicured lawn, then good for you. Whatever makes you happy. If you need me, you can find me drinking cheap wine amongst my pepper plants, admiring my new space.

PPS – If you like the lanterns, you can find them at Z Gallerie <---click the link! *For more ideas on making the most out of a smaller outdoor space, check out:,,20479132_20933085,00.html


Alessandra Macaluso is the author of What a Good Eater! , Lucy the Bee and the Healing Honey, and The Real-Deal Bridal Bible. She’s also a Qigong and Tai Chi instructor, and overall wellness advocate. Her work has been featured in several anthologies which can all be found on her Amazon author page, and she has contributed to The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, TODAY Parents, and many other online publications.

Alessandra is a northerner-turned-southerner, enjoying the south with her children, Penelope and Ciro, and her husband, Greg.

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This looks absolutely AMAZING!!! Very Zen:) Enjoy the “fruits of your labor”!!! Ha!

[…] Recently I posted about ways to make the most of your plot of land, along with the pic of our DIY vegetable garden. Here is the DIY info on how you can build something […]

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